Amendment 11

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 27th January 2022.

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Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 2:45 pm, 27th January 2022

My Lords, as we have heard from my noble friend Lady Ludford, the Chagos Islanders were evicted by the UK Government in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make way for a US naval base, and they are still exiled from their homeland. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Horam, there are two separate and very distinct issues here. The first, as the noble Lord quite rightly says, is giving the Chagos Islands back to the islanders, which is very much an issue for the Foreign Office. This amendment is about giving Chagos Islanders nationality, and that is very much the responsibility of the Home Office, not the Foreign Office. I would also say, in response to the last speaker and to the noble Lord, that century-long precedents are not necessarily good precedents.

One impact of the eviction has been to deprive descendants of their citizenship rights. The Chagos Islands remain a British Overseas Territory and, as we have heard, were it not for the eviction, they would have passed British Overseas Territories citizenship from generation to generation. In certain circumstances, they could have acquired entitlement to be registered as British citizens and, since 2002, they could have benefited from a general discretion from the Home Secretary to register as British citizens.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, said, the Government’s objection in the other place does not hold water. The situation of the Chagos Islanders is unique and, while the other measures in this part of the Bill to address historic injustices are welcome, they are incomplete without the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, which we wholeheartedly support. As the noble Baroness explained, it is narrow in scope, focused exclusively on the Chagos Islanders’ direct descendants and limited to a five-year window, either from the date the amendment comes into force or five years from when the eligible person turns 18. The Minister will have to do more than simply repeat the words of her colleague in the other place to convince noble Lords not to pursue this matter further on Report.